Plzeňské sympozia

Jiří Žůrek

The Enlightenment of František Faustin Procházka (1749-1809)

pp. 19–24 (Czech), Summary p. 25 (English)

Th?e contrast between light and shade in František Faustin Procházka’s work Commentarius is primarily the contrast between Baroque and Enlightenment scholarship.However, it is not only that, but also the contrast between a time when Latin culture, and especially Latin literature, flourished in the Czech lands, and a time when the classical languages were in decline. For example, in theology the influence of classical languages on its favourable development is quite a direct one: the study of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew facilitates a return to or direct access to the authentic sources of theology, which are Holy Scripture and the writings of the church fathers. In other branches of learning this relationship is not obvious at first glance, but if we take into account Procházka’s linguocentrism we can easily understand that the purity of linguistic expression is closely connected to the ability to elucidate facts and express the essence of the phenomena that are being examined. It is therefore the level of linguistic expression that is Procházka’s litmus test, which enables him to recognise the state of learning in any given era. Th?ere is no doubt that Procházka’s criterion is to a large extent functional, and is indeed quite acceptable today, in spite of the problem of laudatio temporis acti associated with this approach, for each new peak of Latin literature compares itself with a period in the distant past, so that every rise in learning can consist at the most in attaining a level comparable with the masters of the Latin language from the distant past. ?us we should not be surprised that in the dispute between the traditionalists and the modernists about the direction that should be taken by Enlightenment scholarship, represented in the Czech lands, for example, by the rivalry between the followers of Karl Heinrich Seibt and of Ignaz of Born, it was the latter who were victorious, when it became apparent, with the development of the natural sciences and technology, that human reason was capable of attaining new and previously unimagined horizons. It could be seen that it was not necessary to constantly return to the distant past and to re-establish it, but that it was possible to discover new things. But it would be wonderful if this was not accompanied by a decline in culture, cultivated expression, and morals. ?e lesson to be learned from Procházka for today can be expressed succinctly: without classical studies we will probably find ourselves going downhill.

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